This year is poised to etch its name in the record books as we anticipate an unprecedented surge in container ship deliveries.
In 2023, shipyards globally delivered a remarkable 350 new container ships, surpassing the previous record set in 2015. This feat resulted in a total capacity of 2.2 million TEU, marking a pivotal moment in the industry. Now, according to Niels Rasmussen, Chief Shipping Analyst at BIMCO, the stage is set for 2024 to eclipse this milestone.
The preceding year witnessed a notable dip in container ship recycling, propelling an 8% surge in fleet capacity – the most rapid growth since 2011. Notably, ships exceeding 15,000 TEU dominated the scene, experiencing a staggering 28% growth with 1.3 million TEU delivered in 2023.
Looking ahead, Rasmussen projects a substantial increase in 2024, with 478 container ships expected to be delivered, boasting a combined capacity of 3.1 million TEU. This represents a remarkable 41% surge, catapulting the container fleet capacity to grow by 10%.
Despite potential increased ship recycling, nearly 2.8 million TEU is anticipated to be added to the fleet by the close of 2024, surpassing the monumental 30 million TEU mark for the first time in history. This signifies a monumental achievement in the maritime landscape.
Chinese shipyards have been at the forefront of this surge, accounting for almost 55% of the ship capacity to be delivered in 2023 and 2024. Meanwhile, South Korean yards are expected to contribute 38% of the total ship capacity.
However, amidst this excitement, a potential imbalance looms. While the container fleet capacity is projected to surge by 10%, the growth in container trades may not match the pace. BIMCO forecasts a 3-4% increase in demand for ship capacity in 2024, raising concerns about a supply and demand disparity.
Compounding the situation, the average sailing speed of container ships has exhibited a decrease from 14.3 knots in 2022 to 13.9 knots in 2023, with the possibility of further reduction in 2024. This potential slowdown in efficiency may necessitate deploying an additional 3-4% capacity to accommodate the projected volume increase in 2024.
Moreover, external factors such as disruptions in the Red Sea could play a pivotal role in tightening the supply/demand balance. As the industry braces for these developments, an additional three million TEU is scheduled to be delivered during 2025-2026, potentially exacerbating the market imbalance unless there is a significant increase in recycling.
The maritime sector is on the brink of a transformative year, where records are poised to be shattered, and the industry landscape is undergoing notable shifts. The interplay of factors like ship deliveries, recycling trends, and global disruptions sets the stage for a compelling narrative in 2024.